It’s the quintessential irony of the American holiday season.
After sitting around a table with those closest to us and being reminded the most important things in life are not material, our nation suddenly becomes infected with a fever called “Black Friday.”
One moment, we are overwhelmed with gratitude and can’t imagine needing anything more. The next minute, we can’t get to the mall or online fast enough to get more stuff!
Did you know that on Black Friday last year Americans spent nearly $8 billion? That is roughly Haiti’s annual gross domestic product. Marketing analysts project this year the average American will spend $472 on Black Friday. “Black Friday Warriors” – those willing to brave the crowds for the best in-store deals – will spend more than three times that amount – $,1596.
Many of us learned the Ten Commandments growing up. If asked, we could probably easily recite most of them from memory. But I have a feeling most of us tend to forget – especially at this time of year – the last one on the list: “You shall not covet.”
The tenth commandment almost seems like a throwaway thought, as if God dictated the first nine and then said, “Oh, and last, don’t forget to not covet.” But there is a reason why it’s at the end.
Think about it this way: most of the sins we commit are outward and visible. It’s pretty easy to spot stealing when you see it. The same goes for murdering, adultery, lying and the other commandments on the list. But the sin of covetousness is inward and invisible. Others can’t see it. Only you and God can see it.
You might be thinking right now, “Covetousness! Jack, that’s a strong word for such a silly thing like Black Friday shopping. Gee, you must be tons of fun at Thanksgiving dinner … ”
It’s not Black Friday I’m ragging on. That’s not the point. The issue at hand is the attitude reflected in our insatiable materialism. Innocent as it seems, our endless desire for the next new thing leads us down a path to selfishness, greed, cheating and a host of other destructive behaviors.
Right now, our nation is paying a high price for our collective covetousness and greed. The symptoms that have led to this – to name just a few – are things like excessive credit card debt, bank failures, corporate scandals and irresponsible government spending throughout the years.
And it’s not just Wall Street or Washington who are to blame. We need to look in our own hearts, too. Because if we think we’ll be happier by having more stuff or better stuff – if we buy into the lie that our identity is found in the car we drive or the clothes we wear or the street we live on – we will always be disappointed.
How many times have you experienced the “new” wearing off on something you bought? While they bring temporary satisfaction or pleasure, the stuff we buy ultimately doesn’t satisfy our inmost desires.
The only things that will ever really, truly satisfy the hunger in your heart and in mine are those you can’t buy at a store: family, friends, and our relationship with Jesus Christ.
You see, when disaster, illness or some unexpected tragedy strikes, we do not find solace in the stuff we have accumulated. We find it in the love and support from those around us and in our faith and hope in God.
Similarly, if my house were to catch on fire, I bet the new flat screen TV would be the last thing on my mind. I would immediately want to know if my family is safe.
I hope this holiday season you will remember and cherish the most important things in life – even if that means you may end up with an empty shopping cart. It’s better to live with a full heart than with a house full of empty stuff.